If you have been to Brazilian churrascarias, you may be familiar with pão de queijo or Brazilian cheese bread. The warm and chewy buns are usually served as a snack, appetizer or side dish. And there are many variations of it around the world. Some of the earliest recipes go all the way back to the Middle Ages. Almojabanas, its Spanish cousin, has Arab origins and in Arabic it literally translates to “that made with cheese.” Today, almojabanas are made with plain flour, corn flour, or rice flour and cheese. When Spanish and Latin foods were brought to the New World, they evolved to use local ingredients, such as corn and cassava – both of which are used in Colombian cheese bread (pan de bono). What makes pão de queijo distinctly Brazilian is its use of solely tapioca flour. Tapioca lends a very chewy, almost gelatinous texture that complements the cheese perfectly.
This recipe can be easily adapted to suit your tastes. Here I use oakwood-smoked cheddar and garlic. Feel free to use other cheddar varieties, parmesan, queso fresco, or to stuff the center of each bun with a piece of mozzarella, farmer’s cheese, or another melting cheese of your liking – My favorite way to enjoy pão de queijo is slathered with salted butter alongside a comforting soup or a morning hot chocolate.
If you give this recipe a try, I would love to know how you liked it. Let me know in the comments below or share your photo with me on Instagram (hanadyskitchen).
Ingredients/ Makes 9-10 buns
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil or unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste
1 1/2 cups tapioca flour (starch)
2 medium or 1 large clove garlic, finely crushed, optional
2/3 packed cups smoked cheddar cheese, grated – or cheese of your choice
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 190C/375F.
Combine the milk, water, olive oil, and salt in a medium saucepan and stir well to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and turn off the heat. Add the tapioca flour right away and stir with a wooden spoon. The dough will look slightly lumpy at this stage. Leave to rest for about 10 minutes and then stir in the garlic, egg, and grated cheese. Use your hands to mix the dough just until the ingredients are well incorporated. Wet your hands with water and form the dough into balls, sized from 3-4 tablespoons (or a scant 1/4 cup) each. Place them on a baking sheet, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches of space in between. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops of the breads are lightly golden. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.